EcoCottage: foundation

floorAfter many years of planning and designing, in the spring of 2010 we finally starting laying the foundation of an “eco-cottage,” a little structure that will be designed to heat and cool itself without much help at all from machines. We decided to build on a hill for aesthetic reasons and also to reduce the threat of moisture  as much as possible. Moisture is a problem for every home and prevention is the best cure. There should be no place for water to stand around a home. Gravity should be taking it away from the basement/foundation walls. 100_2622Siting the house was the first important step.  Too little consideration is given these days to the placement of a building in relationship to the sun and prevailing winds. Since we live in a fairly cold climate, where heating bills are generally higher than cooling bills, we followed the practice of home builders in this area two and three centuries ago. They tended to build long homes whose length absorbs the maximum amount of solar heat per square inch of surface. The summer sun will be dealt with with deciduous trees, vines, and overhangs. And as the winter sun is low, stucco walls will absorb the heat and the high summer sun will be reflected by a light metal roof. The axis of the structure is not strictly east-west but slightly angled so that the morning sun in winter hits the east corner of the house and the evening sun in the summer just misses the west side. foundationWe dug down to solid rock and fastened locally quarried stone block that matches the indigenous rock. Next we poured concrete behind the block for a foundation. We considered building the foundation entirely out of stone, because concrete embodies a lot of energy and contains caustic chemicals. But with building an environmentally friendly home, the first consideration is longevity. The foundation must be as solid as possible. Concrete is the best choice for this project because we were building upon a very irregular rocky surface, a circumstantial byproduct of our decision to build on a hill.  Poured concrete conforms to the irregular surface and is more stable than a stone foundation can be.   We were able, however, to reduce the amount of concrete by making the facade out of stone. This of course adds huge aesthetic value as well.  The house will literally look like it grew out of the natural rock.

Lucian Rex helping out.

100_2626

The foundation is faced with large stones.

subfloor

The foundation complete, the subfloor is added. Heavy timber will go into place next.

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